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Digest of Public Opinion on Jewish Matters

[The purpose of the Digest is informative: Preference is given to papers not generally accessible to our readers. Quotation does not indicate approval--Editor.]

The case for and against the Revisionist movement in Zionism is stated in two articles which appear in the October-November issue of the “Menorah Journal,” under the head “The Present Conflict in Zionist Policy.” The case for Revisionism is made by Johan J. Smertenko, an editor of the “Zionist,” Revisionist organ in New York. The rejoinder is from the pen of Emanuel Neumann, chairman of the Executive Committee of the United Palestine Appeal and member of the World Zionist Actions Committee.

Defining Revisionism as “first of all an attitude of mind,” based on the stand that the Jews have certain rights in this world “which they can and should insist on publicly and militantly,” Mr. Smertenko proceeds to charge the present Zionist leadership with being too supine. He writes:

“Revisionism would do away with this ludicrous spectacle of timid and impotent Jewish leaders playing at realpolitik with the shrewdest Foreign Office in the world. Revisionism would force the Jewish question into the open. If our claims to Palestine are valid–and they have been definitely and properly recognized as such in international treaties–then an honest program for establishing these claims as realities must be acceptable to the Mandatory Power. That, and no vague hope for the future, must be the gesture of Great Britain in this crisis of Palestine. Our alternative is an appeal to universal public opinion and, especially, to the public of England which can and does influence British foreign policy. We have nothing to fear in the way of retribution for this bold act, nothing to lose that is not already jeopardized or lost by the inaction of the Mandatory Power and the cowardice of our present attitude.

“If our program be clear, thorough and practical, if our demands be open, adequate and moderate, we have a far stronger weapon of compulsion in the sympathetic agreement of the general public than in any secret favor enjoyed by this or that leader of Jewry. It is a question of national rights and national dignity against personal sh’tadlonis and political grafting. And it is time that the Jewish problem was considered on an honorable basis.”

In his reply Mr. Neumann reproaches Mr. Smertenko for “imperfect familiarity with the manifold circumstances and complexities involved in Zionist effort” and rebukes him for using abusive terms against the Zionist leaders. He says:

“It is those to whom we owe whatever progress we have thus far made that he (Smertenko) holds up to scorn and obloquy. It is them he charges not merely with weakness or incompetence, but with a wilful dereliction of duty, with chicanery, with the frustration of our legitimate aspirations. Consider his language: ‘shifting expediency,’ ‘vested interests,’ ‘craven viewpoint,’ ‘acting like a group of beggars,’ ‘bargaining tactics,’ ‘timid and impotent leaders,’ ‘personal sh-tadlonis and political grafting,’ ‘wilful, backstairs intrigants’–it is in phrases of such delicate texture that one berates the group of men responsible for the most notable achievements in the national life of our people since the Diaspora.”

Mr. Neumann then points out that “Revisionism, insofar as it represents dissatisfaction with the status quo, may, if it so chooses, claim as its adherents virtually the whole of the Zionist Organization, including most of the leaders themselves,” and yet Revisionism, as a distinct group, with a program of action, or a party with political ambitions, commands for the present but a scant following.” This is explained on the ground that “the very fact of the wide prevalence of the feeling of dissatisfaction among all ranks and groups in Zionism is in itself a sufficient reason for the failure of Revisionism as a party to make extensive conquests. In other words, Revisionism has no monopoly of this commodity variously termed ‘opposition’ or ‘criticism of the political situation,’ or ‘impatience at the rate of development in Palestine'; and there is no good reason why Zionists should flock to its counters for the things they produce in generous quantities in their own organizations.”

The divergence between the Zionists and Revisionists, Mr. Neumann proceeds, is due to a difference in the matter of expediency and tactics. The regular Zionists are “moderate” compared to the Revisionist “extremists” not in their conception of the ultimate goal; but “they differ substantially as to the road that must be traveled for the next decade or two.”

“The ‘moderates,’ who are in office and who are led by the men responsible for the Declaration and the Mandate, believe that for the time being there is little more to be accomplished in the political sphere. The ‘burden of going forward,’ they say, now rests chiefly upon the Jewish people. The Mandate offers a sufficient legal basis, the Ruttenberg Concession and similar opportunities constitute a sufficient economic basis on which to build. What will it profit us to shake enraged but impotent fists in the face of England, to threaten the British Empire with the dire consequences of our displeasure, so long as we number but a handful in Palestine, so long as the overwhelming proportion of the soil is in non-Jewish possession, so long as we lack every means of making our gesture effective, because of the weakness of our position in our National Home? Let us take a leaf from the book of British history, and consult the accumulated wisdom of that people ripe with political and imperial experience. Was it not Burke who said: ‘It is no small part of wisdom to know how much of evil should be tolerated.’ Let us patiently trudge ahead, banking the fires of our resentment against a more auspicious hour. Let us redeem the soil inch by inch with the sweat of our brow and our own good money. Let us plant colonies, found cities, establish industries, populate the land, extend and consolidate our power. Then when we have demonstrated our capacity to build, when we have shot our roots into the soil so deep that we cannot be deracinated, then and only then can we lift our voices effectively and demand those rights given only to those who have earned them through their own efforts,” Mr. Neumann declares.

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